An invasive tree that has escaped from original plantings. The native range is obscure due to a long history of cultivation; however, Southeast Asia is the best guess. Cultivated since the 16th century, Chinaberry was imported to Hawaii around 1839. It escaped cultivation and established wild populations by 1871. Historically it was used medicinally mainly to alleviate skin conditions from Hansen’s disease. The tree is poisonous to humans.
Chinaberry is invasive in Tropical America, Mexico, Southern USA, and as far north as NY state. It is considered one of ‘Hawaii’s Most Invasive Horticultural Plants.’ Chinaberry is common in the Hamakua region of Hawaii Island.
Description and Dispersal:
- A single-trunked deciduous tree growing up to 35 feet tall
- Crown has a rounded appearance
- Green leaves are 2 to 3 times compound and are arranged alternately
- Flowers are a loose panicle of star-shaped inflorescence
- Fruit is a round drupe, turning yellow when ripe, and persists long after leaves fall
- Dispersed by animals, gravity, and possibly water